With only two weeks remaining in the WNBA regular season, Tuesday night’s matchup against the Chicago Sky felt like a playoff game. Chicago is chasing a top-four seed that would allow them to bypass a dangerous single-elimination first round game. Minnesota is a little lower in the standings and wants to climb up a few spots in order to host one of those first round games. A lot is on the line and through a hard-fought, closely contested game Minnesota came out ahead.
Damiris Dantas got things started for the Lynx. She was hot right out of the gate making her first four shots and scoring 10 of her 17 points in the first quarter. Not to be outdone, the Sky’s Diamond DeShields and Astou Ndour also each hit multiple threes early in this game. Defense would eventually play a factor in the game, but that was not the case in the first quarter. Despite the myriad of capable long-range shooters on the Sky roster, the first quarter would be Chicago’s high water mark. Instead the Lynx forced the Sky into a battle of the interior. A major factor in Minnesota’s victory was their ability to limit Chicago’s open three pointers force less efficient shots.
The game’s intensity grew as the night wore on. Everything changed when Sylvia Fowles picked up her fourth personal foul at the seven minute mark of the third quarter. Suddenly the Minnesota defense looked very different and the Sky took advantage. Chicago outscored the Lynx 22-11 the rest of the quarter and took a two point lead to the fourth.
The Sky were led by an unlikely player- backup center Cheyenne Parker. In a reserve role, Parker scored 12 of her career high 22 points in the third frame. Without Fowles in the game Parker was free to operate in the paint unencumbered. The Chicago backup center was effective at rim-running in transition and using her size in the lane to score or get fouled. Parker also racked up an eye-popping six blocked shots in the game.
The Lynx reserves had a historically bad night as they combined for a grand total of zero points. Only Temi Fagbenle and Stephanie Talbot played more than ten minutes. Lexie Brown and Seimone Augustus each played just three minutes. None of them contributed at all on the offensive end. All 93 Lynx points in this game were scored by their starting lineup.
Cheryl Reeve made sure her starters played the entire fourth quarter as things ratcheted up to a playoff-like intensity. The importance of the game was understood by everyone. Players from both teams appeared more locked-in and fiery than usual and the eight thousand fans in attendance had Target Center ringing. It was easily the loudest game of the season (other than camp day, duh).
After being knotted up at 75 midway through the fourth quarter, the Lynx went on an 11-4 run that sealed their third straight win. It was jumpstarted by a statement block that Napheesa Collier administered to former UConn teammate Katie Samuelson. This helped ignite the crowd, and the Lynx in general, allowing them to finish off the visiting Sky.
Fowles got back to her typical dominant self after a tough few games. She finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds. She also passed Lisa Leslie for third on the WNBA all-time rebounding list. Sweet Syl only needs ten more rebounds to “catch” Tamika Catchings for second all time (3,316). Next season she’ll pass former(?) teammate Rebekkah Brunson who is the all-time leader with 3,356 boards.
Collier was stellar again. It’s been impressive to watch the rookie get better on offensive as the season has progressed. Her three point shot looks better and she’s becoming more patient with the ball in the paint. She’s also improved in finishing through contact.
Minnesota swept the season series vs Chicago. I’m sure the Lynx would like to see the Sky in a first round game but it seems most likely that they will face the Seattle Storm.
The post season officially awaits Minnesota, but first there are three more regular season games including Sunday’s home finale vs Indiana. Tip off is set for 6pm CT.
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